What is the difference between change and transformation, really? And does it really matter?
If you’re wondering which one is for you, here’s some thoughts on the difference and when/why it matters (and when it doesn’t). So if you are feeling that it’s time for something… else?, read on.
On the surface, definitions give some insight – or seem to at least. There’s some variation but generally change is defined as ‘making something different, to alter or modify’, while transformation implies a ‘marked change in form, nature, or appearance’. So does that make transformation change, only more so? Only better? Then there is the idea that change is something we do in response to outside influence, whereas transformation is more of an internal process. Which seems oversimplified, and not true for all situations.
Personally, I like the idea that transformation is about changing into something that is not yet known. This is an idea I’ve heard explained best by Otto Scharmer in his Theory U, which in a nutshell says that when you map out change, you’ll get an expanded/altered, and hopefully improved version of what you’ve already got. But if you are after something that is completely different, then at some point you’ll have to let go of what you have now, and be open to a new possible future. And from that openness, new things can emerge. Which you can then try out, and grow into something new.
So how is this useful? Well, first of all, it’s about knowing which one appeals to you most.
Maybe you find change a much more manageable concept, and the idea of transforming seems scary or unnecessary. Maybe you like the grand idea of transforming aspects of, or even your entire life, and change just seems too minimal.
For me, there is no one answer better than the other. The way I look at it, change is for when you want to take steps to something new and different, something that is better, easier, more fun than where you are right now. It’s about setting a goal, deciding on a small step, one thing to do differently and then finding strategies to keep that up. Which, by the way, can totally lead to transformation .
And transformation is for you if you are looking for purpose and meaning, and are interested in pondering some big questions like ‘When I get to the end of my life, what do I want to look back on? What is my work here? What is my vision, my mission, my purpose? You may be someone who finds it easier to take steps if you have a clear perspective – a big picture, rather than an individual goal.
I think the important thing here is that you do what fits you. If you are a transformation-kinda-guy/gal, (have your coach) ask those big questions, and then figure out how you want to be held accountable to actually taking some steps. If you are all change and action, great, get moving and take those steps! Do however, hold your horses long enough to talk about the ‘why’ enough to prevent you from charging off in the wrong direction.
Both change and transformation bring challenges, so if you want some support making sure you do this in the right way for you, I’d love to meet you and have a chat. And the first half hour is free!